Signed cabinet card of Capt. Philip Reade, 3rd US Infantry. Reade was a young officer on the plains when he witnessed (see below for details) the butchering and scalping of Buffalo hunter Ralph Morrison. An iconic photograph was taken at that time forever immortalizing the horrific scene (see below).
Signed with rank on the back. Lowell, Mass photographer b/m.
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A TRAGEDY OF THE PLAINS.
This picture illustrates one of the tragedies so common on the plains 25 years ago. Ralph Morrison, a noted hunter, guide and scout, was killed and scalped by Cheyenne Indians, near Fort Dodge, in June, 1869. The war party was pursued by troops, and four of them were killed. Lieutenant Philip Reade, of the 3d Infantry, and John O. Austin, another famous scout, were the first to reach the body of Morrison after the killing.
The photograph here reproduced was made by Wm. S. Soule, an amateur photographer, who was at that time employed in the post trader's store at Fort Dodge. Austin was wounded in the head and face with arrows, by the Kiowas, 1859. A year later, when scouting along the old Santa Fe emigrant route without a military escort. The Indians swarmed along the route and corralled trains, keeping us busy protecting the big 'prairie schooners,' live stock drivers, mail stations, etc.
"Buffalo were there in immense herds; wolves and coyotes hung around, ready to sneak in at all times. Pelt hunters used to poison buffalo carcasses and then, a day later, skin the dead wolves and cayotes for the sake of their pelts. 'Gray wolf skins for something near a dollar each, untanned. Cayote pelts were worth 50 cents each. It was not unusual to see 18 or 20 "stiffs " about a buffalo poisoned carcass.
"The temptation to hunters, like Morrison, to steal out of the post, without military escort, for the sake of pelts, was great. He was with Captain Newby, his right hand was literally split in two by a tomahawk, thrown by a wounded Arapahoe. At another time his left arm was broken by an Apache Indian, in a fight near Fort Craig, N. M. In i860, a Cheyenne sent an arrow into his right knee, and during the following year a band of Texas desperadoes shot him several times, near Fort Garland, and left him for dead. He was wounded at the battle of Chickamauga, from the effect of which he died some time in the seventies.
I wrote Lieutenant (now Captain) Philip Reade for some further facts in regard to the killing of Morrison, and he replies as follows:
"Your letter about Ralph Morrison conies to me like a voice from the grave. I saw him killed and scalped by the Indians, in June, 1869. John O. Austin and I were mounted when the hostiles charged on Morrison and got in their work before we could reach him. This was opposite the mouth of a dry canyon, three quarters of a mile east of Fort Dodge."
"In those days no wagon train was allowed to leave the military reservation without protection, but relied on his Winchester rifle and his revolver to stand off hostiles."
"One night in June he made one trip too many. Shortly after sunrise, Mr. Austin and I had mounted our broncos for the purpose of making a reconnoissance before breakfast, when we heard shooting, hardly a thousand yards from us. The garrison consisted of four companies 3d Infantry, one troop each of 7th and 10th cavalry. Looking eastward Scout Austin and I saw a white man pursued, shot and scalped, by a small party of mounted Indians. Of course, at the first shot we started for the hostiles, leaving troopers to follow later.
Morrison did not fire a shot. His right arm had been disabled by the first volley from the ambushed Indians and they swooped down on him, completed their barbarous work, remounted and were in retreat before we reached the still warm body of Morrison. The Indians then ran against the wind and set the prairie on fire, compelling us to take to the river to keep from being burned."
An exceptional photograph taken not long after the young Will Soule arrived at Fort Sill and began taking photographs. This dramatic photograph was circulated widely in the East thanks to an engraving in Harper's Weekly for January 19, 1869. The caption of the engraving tells the story: On December 7, Mr. Ralph Morrison, a hunter, was scalped and murdered by the Cheyenne within a mile of Fort Dodge. Wm. S. Soule, an amateur photographer [and] chief clerk in Tappin's Trading Company, took the picture. The officer is Lt. Reade, 3rd Infantry. John O. Austin, Chief of Scouts is on the right. The photo was taken within an hour of the killing.
An extraordinary, and iconic, image of the conflict between the 7th U.S. cavalry and the Cheyenne and Arapahoe.